Strengthen the Church Offering to be Collected May 20

On May 20, 2018, the Strengthen the Church offering will be collected at St. John’s UCC.  The offering supports the expansion of ministry and growth of UCC local congregations and will help the UCC fulfill its commitment to creating a just world for all by investing in new ministries and practices which meet the emerging needs of local communities.

In 2017, support of UCC congregations made possible 12 awards totaling almost $350,000 through the *New and Renewing Spiritual Communities grant program.  **The Adese Fellowship program launched its first class of 14 future church leaders; and there was the addition of 24 new faith communities to the UCC.  This is in addition to the great ministry happening in our local conference.

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*New and Renewing Spiritual Communities grants strengthen UCC congregations by providing funds to assist in community revitalization or support new churches.  Grants are awarded each year to fund ministries that impact their communities toward a Just World for All.

**The Adese Fellowship is a 12-month program which maximizes the capacity of fellows to launch businesses that will help end system poverty. Participants engage in theological reflection and business development as they create enterprises that help their communities follow the way of Jesus and live into God’s economy.

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A Litany for Earth Day, April 22, 2018 (John 10:11-18)

One:      Dear God, This is our thanks for the colors of the earth.

Many:    For the browns and golds and greens of the earth. For the white snow on the mountains and fields of lavender.

One:       This is our love for the waters of the earth.

Many:     For oceans that cover and the rivers that wash and rapids that roar. For the life in the ponds. For turtles bobbing at the surface.

One:       We give praise to the sound of the rains that come.

Many:     For the deserts where seasons run dry and the sun beats till the oil cakes and everything fries.

One:       For all the creatures who live here below the skies.

Many:    For the life that roams in herds across the grassy plains. For the raptors who float on the winds high before the clouds.

Many:    We give praise and thanks and joy.

One:       For storms and heat and the cold that pierces–all of it coming from the heart of God who called everything “good.”

Many:    This is our home. This blue ball floating before the sun and the moon.

One:       This is our earth. We give praise for its day.

Many:    This is our earth. We only have one.

One:        Teach us how to be its beloved. Teach us how to live for its good. Amen.

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Samaritan’s Purse: Reaching Millions of Young Hearts

A recent communication received from Franklin Graham states:  “In more than 100 countries, Samaritan’s Purse is working to teach precious boys and girls about Jesus through The Greatest Journey–our discipleship program for children who receive Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.  This year, our goal is to enroll 4.5 million children in this dynamic 12-lesson Bible course to add to the nearly 15 million who have participated in the program since it began in 2009.

“One of these is Kumar, whose alcoholic father used to beat him and even withhold food from him, causing the boy to become very withdrawn.  When he was invited to an Operation Christmas Child outreach event, Kumar received a gift-filled shoebox and the best news he had ever heard–that God loves him.  It was the first time he had ever heard that anyone loved him.

“He began attending The Greatest Journey classes where he learned more about his Heavenly Father and gave his heart to Jesus.  We praise God for the nearly 7 million children who, like Kumar, have repented of their sins and accepted Christ as Savior through this program!

“Now, Kumar is a young evangelist, sharing the Gospel with his friends and family.  ‘I want to introduce this loving God to all the children in my village,’ he said.  Kumar’s mother and sister have also given their hearts to Christ.  Isn’t it wonderful that God is using the testimony of this young boy in India–and many more like him–to proclaim the Good News of eternal salvation?  It has always been my prayer that the Lord would use The Greatest Journey to raise up an army of young evangelists.”

 

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Christ Among Us (Luke 24:36b-48)

It seems obvious to us, now, after centuries of practice, that it is in a shared meal that communion is found.  We understand that there is something in the Lord’s Supper that binds everyone wherever and whenever it is offered.  Knowing that the last thing Jesus did on the night he was betrayed was break bread with his disciples makes sitting down to table essential to our communities.  Many resurrection accounts, like the one in this passage from Luke, tell how Jesus ate with them.  In these days food has become a kind of litmus test.  The kinds of food we eat, how it is prepared and grown and shipped has taken on larger concerns around the environment and how we treat this earth.  Putting these two things together, food and worship, is creating a kind of table theology in many of our churches.  A theology born of love of food, love of the earth and love of neighbor–all bound in the communal and welcoming settings of our local churches.

On the first Tuesday of every month at Newman Congregational United Church of Christ in Rumford, Rhode Island, people gather in the church kitchen to prepare a meal.  They bring the ingredients, trying to source them locally and mindfully.  Together, everyone–children too, and those who know their way around a kitchen and those who don’t–chip in to help prepare the meal.  The tables are set.  As they sit around them to eat, they talk about a passage from scripture and share communion.  The ministry is called “Nourish.”

There is a dinner church for young adults that meets the fourth Sunday of every month at the First Congregational Church UCC in Santa Rosa, California.  Like other dinner churches, they offer fellowship and deep sharing around a meal, and children are always welcome!  In Northampton, Massachusetts, at First Church, their Dinner church meets twice a month.  They grow a lot of what they serve at three plots they maintain in a local community garden.  Their gathering is called “Common Ground.”  This is from their website:

Our vision is to feed those who are hungry in body, mind, and soul:  hungry for bread, hungry for meaning, hungry for beauty, truth, purpose, and community.  Through the ministry of Common Ground we are striving to help people connect to the earth, one another, and the God whose good gifts we freely share.

What kind of dinner church could your congregation serve to a hungry world?

 

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Marks of Faith (John 20:19-31)

How do you define “success?”  When you imagine your own personal success does that translate into how you imagine the success of institutions you care about?  How do we know, for example, if a church is “successful?”  It might be that you would think a successful church is a church with many members and full pews on Sunday, or a church without financial concerns, or a church with a large youth group.  Size and security may seem good factors to describe success, but if we look at the Gospels, we will find that success is defined in a different way.

In John’s Gospel, the disciple named Thomas wants to see Jesus and put his hands in the holes made in the body of Jesus by the soldiers of Rome.  For Thomas, the marks of faith are wounds.  These are not the usual marks associated with success.  They are the wounds delivered by a system that killed a man who it could not contain, a man who represented a world view so unlike theirs that he was a threat.

How do we know if the church of Jesus Christ is “succesful”?  By what rubrics will we define that?  How will we recognize our wounds as marks of a faithful people?

The United Church of Christ has a banner many churches hang over their doorways or in front of their buildings.  It says:

BE THE CHURCHProtect the environment.  Care for the poor.  Forgive often.  Reject racism.  Fight for the powerless.  Share earthly and spiritual resources.  Embrace diversity.  Love God.  Enjoy this life.

None of these ways of “Being the Church” are the usual markers for success.  They may or may not be predictive of a filled sanctuary or an abundant pledge drive, but they do reflect the way in which Jesus was himself faithful to the world he served and still serves.

We could ask our churches:  “How do you get to be a successful and faithful church?”  Answer:  “Do what Jesus did.”  If you are lucky, you will bear the marks of a faithful life.  And people will come for miles to see that what you have done is true and those marks are real.  Jesus would probably tell us to stop worrying about the future, just “be the church” he might say.  “Be the church, so that you might have life in my name.”

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Calling All Ladies!!

A short get-away is planned this spring.  Pastor Carol, along with Dotty Hartzell and Belinda Lentz from St. John’s UCC, Dover, Ohio, will be facilitating a gathering to be held at Templed Hills, our UCC church camp at Bellville, OH.

The event will take place beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 4, and ending at approximately 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 5.  There will be no cost except a Friday evening meal.

Have you ever prayed using colors?  How about beads?  Have you ever prayed using your nose or your sense of touch?  Well, you will if you join us that weekend.  In case you think this may be a tad boring–forget it!  There will be plenty of laughter as well.

See Pastor Carol if you would like to attend.  A good and prayer-filled time will be had by all!

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Operation Christmas Child Update

The shoeboxes that we collected at Christmastime were part of a delivery to 27,506 children in Belize.  Belize has 360,000 people and is located on the eastern coast of Central Africa.  Thirty-four percent of the population is 14 years or younger.  Thank you to all who filled a box for this most worthwhile project.

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Food Pantry in Need of Supplies

You will notice that the food pantry shelves empty out quickly, especially after the third Saturday distribution takes place.  Out of our abundance, we need to meet the needs of others.  On a Sunday morning, open your cupboard door and pull out a can, box, jar of something and bring it in and place it on the table at the front of the sanctuary.  (Please check expiration dates before bringing in items.)  Thank you!

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

Centering Words for Sunday, April 15: Sin or righteousness?  Doubt or belief?  These are questions raised by today’s texts.  Are we afraid when Jesus appears unexpectedly in our lives?  How strong are our beliefs and desire to follow?  Are we strong enough not to sin?  Isn’t that impossible?  No, for that is the promise we hear today in the Easter readings.  The result of believing is understanding and the declaration:  I called and God answered.  Jesus is the one who fulfills the promises.  Where do we find ourselves?  Where do we find peace?  These questions help us find our way.

Tuesday, April 17–Ladies meet at LuLu’s, 9 am.; TOPS, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, April 18–Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.

Thursday, April 19–Community dinner at the Senior Center, 6 p.m.

Saturday, April 21–Food pantry distribution, 8 am. to 11 a.m.

Sunday, April 22–Worship service begins at 10:30 a.m. Scriptures are Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18.  Theme:  Enfolded By Love.  A coffee hour follows the worship service.

Thought for the week:  When you get to your wit’s end, you will find that God lives there!

 

 

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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday,  May 22,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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